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IoT standards groups get ready to rumble at CES

Stephen Lawson | Oct. 20, 2015
Fast-moving AllSeen and OIC both are likely to have certified products at the show.

Home IoT products
Home IoT products on display on Tuesday at Connections, a smart-home conference in Burlingame, Credit: Stephen Lawson

Like prizefighters in intense training, two groups trying to define the Internet of Things are headed for a big showdown in Las Vegas early next year. 

Visitors to the International CES in early January should get to see products certified by the AllSeen Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium. Each group is promoting its own approach to making connected devices and the applications running on them work together. 

AllSeen announced the start of its certification program on Monday, and OIC expects to start signing off on products in the next two months. That's pretty quick as standards go: AllSeen was formed in late 2013 and OIC in mid-2014. It's perfect timing for gear from both camps to go on show at the biggest consumer electronics show in the world. 

Having a house full of locks, lights, appliances and thermostats that can communicate with each other and the cloud is critical to getting value from those purchases. For example, a connected door lock is worth a lot more if it can tell a thermostat that you've come home and the heat should go on. Unless all the pieces come from the same company, they need a shared, cross-vendor language for finding and understanding each other.

AllSeen is offering its AllJoyn framework to fill that need. OIC is promoting its own standard and a reference implementation called IoTivity. The first full version of the OIC standard was completed last month. 

Apple's HomeKit system, and the Weave platform developed by Nest, now part of Google's Alphabet universe, may also give those standards a run for their money.

The fight for interoperability could make or break IoT in many homes, said IDC analyst Michael Palma. Consumers will adopt devices gradually and expect them all to work together. The first time one doesn't, they may stop bothering.

"The next time they think about adding something, they'll remember the difficulty they had," Palma said.

Broadband providers, the channel for much of this gear, are part of the push for interoperability. If a user can't get one of their devices to work, the service provider may need to send out a technician, at high cost to the carrier.

Eventually, the demand for ease of use will bring competing platforms together, or at least lead to ways of making them talk to each other, Palma said. But he doesn't expect that for at least two years.

"It takes a long time to get to the point where everybody sees the value of working together," he said.

 

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